Drinking Heavily with a Red Wine Audio Signature 15: a preview

I’ll let you in on a little secret, because, well, that’s how I roll. Are you ready?

Red Wine Audio has a stupid-good integrated amp for $1500.

Look, I hear you. $1500 isn’t chump change — and you’re absofreakinlutely right. It’s a lot of dough. But. Okay, but. Given that we’re already talking about a “hobby” where stupid-good can (but shouldn’t) cost more than a brand-new BMW, $1500 is … a screaming deal.

I’ve had the unit for all of a week, courtesy of RWA’s Master Vintner, Vinnie Rossi, so at best, call this write up an “introduction” and not a review, okay? Anyway, I asked for a loaner after I ended up purchasing the Tekton Pendragon‘s he recommended me last Fall. I’d been looking for a low-power amp solution to go along with a high sensitivity speaker (a second system) and naturally I put a call into Red Wine.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the second Red Wine amp that I’ve had in. The first one was a Signature 30.2 that I tried out back in 2008 (-ish). In comparison to that box, the Signature 15 looks and feels pretty much the same.

One thing that’s different (aside from the guts) is an external battery charger. I don’t remember this on the Sig 30.2 … But whatever, this little box helps by providing a ground lift and some indication of where you are in your battery charge cycle.

Inputs and outputs are also a bit more flexible over the 30.2. You get 3 inputs and two outputs — one is a set of pre outs (see pic below) and of course you have your stereo speaker binding posts. Since the charger is external, there’s an XLR-based input jack to the side, along with a switch to tell the unit where to draw power during playback.

The remote has gotten a bit of a once-over, too. Very minimalistic, but a bit more elegant than what I remember from the earlier unit. Still plastic, unfortunately, but then, this is a $1500 amp.

I also have a King Rex U-384 DAC in for review, so I figured — hey, all battery! It’s turning out to be an outstanding sounding system.

I’m still waiting on some Vaughn Pinot Monitors, so in the meantime, I’m using the Totem Model 1 Signature speakers that were recently ejected from my home theater system in favor of some larger, front-ported Joseph Audio speakers. These Model 1’s are a nice size for this near-field listening setup and the sound is, well, surprising.

I’m breaking in the amp now, so as I mentioned, it’s a bit early for pronouncements about this little system’s sound quality — so, let’s do some anyway. Are you ready?

It sounds great. And by “great” I mean “really, perhaps even surprisingly, good”. I can’t remember being this impressed by my Totems before. And the amp is hardly broken in!

I’m spending today catching up on email and whatnot, so I have the stereo on. I’m playing through a selection of tunes I picked up off of various demo CDs put together by consummate showman Philip O’Hanlon (Luxman and Vivid distributor for the US). And while Philip may not be my biggest fan — “[Part-Time Audiophile] isn’t really on the same playing field as a “real” audio rag, now is it there?” said he in his delicious brogue — he can certainly pick some sweet tunes.

I’m a happy camper, right now!

I’m gonna close this intro with a referral. After Vinnie and I worked out the details for the loaner, 6moons went ahead and awarded the Signature 15 a “Blue Moon” award. I’ve been a long-time fan of Srajan Ebaen’s writing and I think he did a really nice job of taking the unit completely apart (sonically) and looking at it from a lot of different directions. A good read.

One thing he didn’t do, which I plan to, is some tube rolling. Vinnie’s supposed to send me a batch to “try out” — I’m very much looking forward to it.

Stay tuned!

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3 Comments on Drinking Heavily with a Red Wine Audio Signature 15: a preview

  1. Are you gonna give it a try with your Pendragons? Curious Tekton and RWA fans would love to know!

    • Socrates7 // January 22, 2012 at 4:59 PM //

      That’s the plan! At some point, Vinnie is supposed to send me some tubes for some rolling, too. And I’m getting some Black Cat cables to try to recreate what Srajan Ebaen wrote about on 6moons in his review of the Signature 15. Stay tuned.

      • Cool! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the community! I’m a previous 30.2 owner, like you, and a Tekton Lore owner considering that Sig 15. I’d be going from a Horn Shoppe Truth opto-buffer pre and Dayens Ampino amp. The Ampino has tons of agility and delicacy, and the Truth gives it real drive and transparency. But I am quite curious about the tonal density Srajan suggests is much harder to come by at this price point. This could be a mighty good combination with the Lores. More meat on the bones is definitely something I’m looking for with my Lores, but I don’t want to sacrifice the air and top end delicacy as well as articulation of microdynamics I currently get with the Ampino. Can we have it all with the Sig. 15?

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